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Joanne Palmer
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Security vs. human rights; law vs. music

Bar Ilan professor to speak in Closter about challenges in Israeli law — and his side gig

Published: 13 March 2015

You can tell a great deal about what challenges a democracy faces by the laws it makes.

It is not breaking news to point out that Israel is on near-constant alert against the threat of terrorism. And because — to continue not to break news — Israel is a democracy, not a dictatorship, and a democracy with a particular sensitivity to human rights at that, it is constantly defining and redefining the tradeoff between security and the methods it uses to attain that elusive goal.

“In Israel, there is a lot of legal regulation and court decisions about fighting terrorism and national security,” Professor Ariel Bendor said. “In the States, the courts don’t decide a lot of cases regarding fighting terrorism. It is a political question here.”


A very Jewish, deeply American life

The Jewish Standard talks to the ZOA’s longtime head, Morton Klein

Cover Story Published: 06 March 2015

Of course, in some senses it is not at all a true statement, nor a fair one. The organization is growing, it is establishing regional branches, and here in northern New Jersey its regional director, Laura Fein, is working actively and visibly to establish the ZOA in what is likely to be fertile ground for it.

But Mr. Klein, who will speak in Englewood on Sunday night, has been the face, the will, and the driving force behind the ZOA for so long that to learn more about the organization, it is necessary to learn more about him.

Mr. Klein’s story is in some senses a quintessentially American one, about immigrating to this country, overcoming adversity, following dreams, juggling outsider- and insider-ness, fighting, winning, losing, winning, and continuing to fight.


HUC chancellor remembers southern boyhood

Rabbi David Ellenson talks about growing up in the South, social justice, the Pew study, and more at Teaneck’s Temple Emeth

LocalPublished: 06 March 2015

Rabbi Dr. David Ellenson’s trip through the Jewish world has been long and strange, beginning in the Orthodox world of Newport News, Virginia; winding through the colonial (for real!) elegance, symmetry, and beauty of the College of William and Mary and the manufactured chaos and real emotion at the Democratic National Convention of 1964, to the presidency of the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Now, as HUC’s chancellor, Rabbi Ellenson is looking beyond it to the world of opportunity not-quite-retirement offers.

Rabbi Ellenson will talk about the insights he’s gained over the course of this busy life as he comes to Temple Emeth in Teaneck as the Rabbi Louis J. Sigel scholar in residence from March 13 to March 15.


Bubbles, bridges, and Torah

Two Teaneck shuls join for afternoon of study

LocalPublished: 06 March 2015

Congregation Rinat Yisrael and Congregation Beth Sholom, both of Teaneck, are holding a joint study program on March 14.

On the one hand, not so groundbreaking, right? The shuls are “only a few thousand feet apart,” said Avi Mermelstein, a Rinat member who is on the committee preparing for the day.

On the other hand, as is true for most members of most, if not all, shuls in the shul-rich town, people “live in a bubble” — a shul bubble, that is — “and they are focused on their own events and their own congregants,” he added.

And it is also true that Rinat is Orthodox and Beth Sholom is Conservative. That makes the walls that separate them just a bit thicker.


Helping parents through tragedy

Bereaved Haworth mother starts support group to aid others

LocalPublished: 06 March 2015

Sometimes bad things happen, and they can ruin your life.

Say that your worst nightmare turns real. Say, perhaps, that the worst possible thing that most people can imagine happens to you. Say that one of your children dies.

What do you do? Do you curl up in a hole, or do you try to go on? Do you try to bring something good out of something terrible?

Elana Prezant of Haworth has decided to take what she learned from her family’s tragedy — the death of her daughter, Stephanie, in a rock-climbing accident three years ago, at 22 — and use that far-too-dear knowledge to help other people.

Working with the Jewish Family Service of Bergen and North Hudson, Ms. Prezant has begun a monthly support group for parents whose children have died. The group is meant to fill a gap that she felt acutely soon after Stephanie died.


From the heart

The Hot Club of Cowtown’s Jewish roots

MusicPublished: 06 March 2015

There is some music that comes from a violin — music that is sad or yearning or fierce or mournful or forgiving or pleading or frantic — that bypasses the brain and goes right to the heart and soul.

Sometimes that music can cross cultural divisions, defy expectations, and mock stereotypes.

That might be why Elana James, a nice Jewish girl from the suburbs of Kansas City, is one of the founders of Hot Club of Cowtown, a trio that will bring western swing, jazz, gypsy, and eastern European music to Mexicali Live in Teaneck on March 14 at 8 p.m., as it has brought it to clubs and theaters around the world for nearly 20 years now.

“I’ve played violin since I was 4,” Ms. James said. “I’ve always felt that it is a very Jewish thing.


A school grows in Englewood

Moriah, first local Jewish day school, celebrates turning fifty

LocalPublished: 27 February 2015

It was 1971, and Dr. Norman Sohn was finishing his training in Boston. He and his wife, Judith, were faced with a decision. Where would they go next? Where would they settle down?

As a newly fledged surgeon, the world was open to him. He could get a job almost anywhere. He was originally from Manhattan, and his wife was from New Rochelle, so the New York metropolitan area made sense to them.

They knew they wanted a yeshiva education for their children — Dr. Sohn had gone to the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School on Henry Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a school that combined religious and secular studies in a way that was progressive for its time — and they also wanted the luxury of choice. They didn’t want a one-school city, as Hartford and even Boston were at the time. “What really attracted me was the multiplicity of neighborhoods that were hospitable to Orthodox people,” Dr. Sohn said. “But here there were so many that if one didn’t work out, there was another.”

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Standardizing the Times

In which we announce and describe our new online partnership with the Times of Israel

Cover Story Published: 20 February 2015

The Jewish Standard is excited and pleased to announce our online partnership with the Times of Israel.

What does that mean to us, and to you?

It means that our hard copy version will stay as it is, but in the next two months or so our web presence will change entirely.

To explain, first we have to go backward.

Not really so very long ago, the world was so much more black and white.

Take newspapers. To begin with, they actually were black and white (and no matter what color your fingers were when you started to read, they’d be black by the time you were done. Ink didn’t stick on newsprint very well).

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Vaccinate your kid!

Local Jewish leaders talk about their policies

Cover Story Published: 13 February 2015

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav was a great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov; he was a chasidic master whose mysticism, extremism, creativity, asceticism, willfulness, and wild emotional swings from despair to ecstasy and then always back to despair make him an almost Byronic figure — had Byron, his contemporary, been a Jew from eastern Europe.

Nachman was thought to be so irreplaceable to his chasidim that they never did replace him; his spiritual descendants go to his grave in Uman, an otherwise obscure Russian town, around Rosh Hashanah every year, wearing their Na-Nach-Nachman-Me-Uman kippot as they brawl noisily around the town.

So why, you might wonder, is Nachman at the start of a story about vaccines?

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How do you staff a Birthright trip?

Local 10-tour veteran talks about training, tips, and tachlis

LocalPublished: 06 February 2015

Taglit-Birthright Israel, the organization that takes young Jews on a free 10-day tour of Israel, has been overwhelmingly influential, connecting the travelers to the Jewish state, and to their people, in ways that they never would have thought of and possibly never could have afforded on their own.

Birthright is run by professionals — in fact, it is famously tightly managed — but it offers far too many trips, organized by far too many separate trip providers, to be able to use paid staffers on the trips. Instead, staffers are young people who know Israel and the organization sponsoring the trip, and who have the leadership abilities that will allow them to do the job well. In return for their free trip, Birthright staff have the opportunity to return to Israel, and to shape the lives of young people who are seeing it as adults for the first time.

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